Best Stunt Work: 1965

My Nominations: Thunderball. The Great Race. Von Ryan’s Express. For A Few Dollars More. The Battle Of The Bulge. Dr Zhivago.

Bond’s 1965 outing is full of the usual exceptional fight and chase scenes, but it is most notable for its underwater work. Naturally, taking the action below the waves has inherent dangers and gave a unique twist to action thrillers of the time, but many of the scenes drag on and lack pace, so although they were remarkable at the time, and still an impressive achievement, they feel a little dated now. Von Ryan’s Express has fights on top of trains, large and small-scale gun battles. The Agony And The Ecstasy has horse battles. The Battle Of The Bulge features a fair amount of epic war scenes and tank combat. Dr Zhivago has a bit of everything, from battle scenes across icy wastelands on horseback, to epic gun battles while For A Few Dollars More has gritty gunplay and tense build-ups before the release of action. The Great Race is like a live action Wacky Races, mixing exciting, nitro-fuelled car action with absurd, extensive pie fighting. There is a massive list of stunt performers, mostly who went criminally uncredited in the film – basically everyone involved in stunts in the 60s was involved in this one.

My Winner: The Great Race

Which film of 1965 do you think has the Best Stunt Work? Let us know in the comments!

Best Stunt Work: 1964

My Nominations: 633 Squadron. Goldfinger. A Fistful Of Dollars. Zulu.

With each passing year, Hollywood writers, directors, and stunt performers grew more ambitious and adventurous with their stunt ideas. 633 Squadron became a perennial British Christmas hit and the aerial battle scenes remain some of the most impressive ever filmed. The film lacked a huger star though and was not a big commercial hit. John Crewdson and Joe Powell are the uncredited geniuses here. Both men again had illustrious careers but are barely remembered. Zulu raised the bar for sheer scale of ground battle scenes, and while there are no obvious single outstanding stunts, the onslaught of fighting and action on screen at any given time must have been hell for the stunt crew and director to manage. Joe Powell again gets in on the act with John Sullivan providing stunt direction.  A Fistfull Of Dollars features plenty of stylized gun play with Benito Stefanelli acting as co-ordinator and stuntman, becoming the go to guy for Spaghetti Westerns. Goldfinger features many of Bond’s most famous setpieces – the laser table, the aerial scenes, the DB5 ejector seat and crash, and of course Bond’s fight with Oddjob. Bob Simmons and his large crew are to thank for some wonderful moments.

My Winner: 633 Squadron.

Which movie from 1964 do you feel has the best stunt work? Let us know in the comments!

Best Stuntwork – Intro

*Note* Here is a post which I wrote years ago and was going to use as an introduction to my picks for the Best Stuntwork Oscar, starting with 1960. For some reason I neglected to post it, so here it is – it’s pretty bad.**

Since pretty much the dawn of cinema, there have been stunts and stunt professionals- men and women willing to put their bodies and lives on the line so that the gaping masses can stare up at the screen and say ‘Holy Shit, that was awesome!’, or in the case of Keanu Reeves ‘Wow’, or in the case of idiots ‘Pff, I could do that’. Chances are that if you have been to the cinema this year (or ever) you will have seen a big budget effects extravaganza littered with huge action set pieces and minor stunts you may even have missed. Even if you’re some hipster who only watches Polish short films from the 30s, wears ridiculous sweaters, and brushes their teeth with feces, you probably know that those in the stunt business have a damn hard, cool, and underappreciated job.

Unlike, say, sound editing (or in some extreme cases cinematography, writing, anything) stunt work is something which is immediate and which everyone can witness if not appreciate. For example, when you watched all those kids being blown into the sky in The Hunger Games, or those faceless baddies been kicked in the balls and thrown down stairs in every 80s action movie ever, you understood that a stunt had taken place for your entertainment. You may not have appreciated the amount of time, work, and planning which went into a particular task, be it falling off a horse in Braveheart or racing/crashing a car in the Bond series. Even after decades of lobbying, it seems that those in charge of The Academy Awards do not understand or appreciate this work, which is frankly ludicrous.

Having grown up in the 80s and 90s, I have fed upon a diet of Spielberg and Lucas, worshipped at the altar of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Van Damme, and occasionally suckled at the teat of Bay. I love action, I need action, and I expect to see at least 30 characters getting seriously hurt in every film, each in more over the top ways. However, whichever age of Hollywood you were raised on, influenced through, and subsequently broken by, stunts have always been there. Whether it was Harold Lloyd dangling precariously from a clock in the 1920s, Buster Keaton narrowly avoiding being crushed by a house, John Ford’s Western epics of the 30s and 40s, Butch and Sundance leaping off a cliff in the 60s, or Jackie Chan dangling precariously from a clock in Project A, the fact is that some of the most iconic moments in the history of cinema have been thought up and executed by some of the craziest shits this side of Charlie Sheen’s toilet.

So, until the time that these guys are recognized officially by people more important than me, I will strive to do my part to remember and regale the people who have provided me with some of the greatest vicarious thrills of my life (watching someone else receive a mouth-gift via glory hole counts as a vicarious thrill, right?) until I find something more meaningful to do with my time.

Best Stunt Work: 1963

My Nominations: From Russia With Love. The Great Escape. It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Jason And The Argonauts. How The West Was Won.

Some great stunt performances this year, with How The West Was Won and It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World providing plenty of thrills. However, my other three nominations contain a number of iconic moments in movie stunt history- Russia has the flying man intro, Jason has the skeleton fight and more, while Escape has the motorcycle jump. It’s a tough call. My winner though is:

My Winner: Jason And The Argonauts.

More than just a sword fight, we have a series of action scenes on a large-scale with performers high diving off ships, avoiding giants, chasing harpies, and taking part in assorted Olympian games. It’s a classic action adventure film with tonnes of memorable stunts. Ralph Faulkner, one of the greatest swordsmen of Western movies (The Three Musketeers, The Thief Of Bagdad) and Eddie Powell (Batman, Aliens, multiple Bond movies) earn the plaudits.

Let me know your picks for the best Stunt of 1963 in the comments below!

Best Stunt Work: 1962

My Nominations: This year arguably saw the first of what could be classed as ‘the modern action movie’ with Agent 007 embarking on his premier mission. With this new approach to genre-filmaking, focus on action set-pieces and stunt work became heavier as directors became more ambitious and pushed for bigger, badder, better hooks for their movies. As it was the first, Hollywood still relied on the tried and tested ways of the past, with epic battles, haymakers, and horse heroics, but Dr.No clearly symbolized a change to both a tighter, more taut and yet more bombastic, extravagant approach.

The 300 Spartans: Unfortunately I have no idea who was involved in the stunt work in the film, so my credit goes to director Rudolph Mate, and military advisor Major Cleanthis Damianos for helping to shape some original, sweeping battle scenes.

Cape Fear: Although most of the violence in the film is unseen and suggested, there are still some potent scenes and impressive work, much of which was performed by the acting roster.

Dr No: From the now requisite pre-title sequence, to the car chases, from the many fist fights to the dragon attack and final Island battle/escape, Dr No is packed with action and premium stunt work. As expected, we have many (shockingly uncredited) stunt performers who were well on their way to become legends in the field – Peter Brace (Batman, Willow, Prince of Thieves, Raiders Of The Lost Ark), Gerry Crampton (Daylight, The Dirty Dozen), and of course Bob Simmons (future Bond films) to name a few.

The Longest Day: A film of this magnitude and with this subject matter will always rely on dedicated stunt professionals, and here they pull off some stunning work. The likes of Joe and Nosher Powell (future Bond movies), Ken Buckle (First Knight, Cleopatra) and Ian Yule (Ben-Hur, The Wild Geese) should be commended here.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: A film not renowned for its stunt work, this nevertheless has many great moments thanks to the likes of married stunt performers Louise and Montie Montana, Chuck Hayward who double for Wayne and most of the biggest Western stars of the era , and Hal Needham, arguably the most famous stuntman of them all.

Sanjuro: Not to be outdone by the West, Japanese master Kurosawa creates yet another rip-roaring Samurai piece, complete with expected, and unexpected swordplay moments. Whilst not as visually memorable as Yojimbo or Seven Samurai, the sword fighting is second to none, thanks to Ryu Kuze.

My Winner: Dr. No

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments and have a go at the poll!

Best Stunt Work – 1961

My Nominations: Guns Of Navarone. Yojimbo. El Cid. The Comancheros. Mothra. One-Eyed Jacks.

For my nominations this year we have two early action classics, one old school epic, one slice of Japanese madness, and a forgotten film waiting to be resurrected. The Guns Of Navarone is one of the most popular man’s-man’s films, featuring an essentially all muscle cast throwing punches, running, hiding, shooting, and crashing their way across Nazi Greece. The action is on such a large scale that there are too many Stunt performers to mention, but thanks to the work of heroes like Bob Anderson (Star Wars Trilogy, LOTR Trilogy), Peter Grant (Led Zeppelin), Jimmy Lodge (Goldfinger, Live And Let Die), Joe Powell (Zulu, You Only Live Twice), and Bob Simmons (Dr. No, Goldinger), Navarone remains thrilling over 50 years later.

Yojimbo’s sword play was masterminded by Hiroshi Kanesu, Ryu Kuze (known for many Kurosawa collaberations), and Yoshio Sugino (Seven Samurai) while Mothra’s stunts were largely the product of Ishiro Honda and the effects crew. El Cid is one of the greatest epics from the early 60s and sees inspired work (especially involving horsies) from Buff Brady (The Green Hornet, Escape From New York), the Canutt Brothers (The Omega Man, The Wild Bunch, Ben Hur), and Jack Williams (The Magnificent Seven, Wild Wild West) amongst others. The Comancheros has more horse action with many of the same performers from El Cid and also featuring Jim Burk (Conan The Barbarian, Young Guns) and Chuck Hayward ( Blues Brothers, Spartacus). The forgotten One-eyed Jacks has strong work from the likes of Henry Wills (Bonanza, Magnificent Seven) and Paul Baxley (Dukes Of Hazard, Star Trek).

My Winner: Guns Of Navarone.

Oops

Best Stunt Work: 1960

A Falling Guy
A Falling Guy

My Nominations:

The Magnificent Seven:This one has any number of heart pumping scenes, from horse chases to gun fights, but it is the sheer speed and diversity of the stunts and action here which does it for me. So please spare a moment to recognise the excellent work of Larry Duran, Jerry Gatlin, Loren Janes, Jack Williams, and Henry Wills.

Spartacus: Most epics have action scenes as a prerequisite. There is a lot of great work here, mostly focussed on the battles and individual fights.

The Lost World: Nothing too jaw-dropping here, but plenty of fights, chases, and explosions which called for some of the best stuntmen in the business.

The Last Voyage: Watching an enormous cruise liner split in half and explode ensures plenty of tension, falling, running, and diving, and in this early disaster movie there are some brilliant stunts. Remember folks, no CG- just men diving out of the way and putting their bodies in extreme danger.

My Winner:

The Magnificent Seven: No Contest.

The Magnificent Seven
The Magnificent Seven